Contraception, Health Care Plans and The Constitution

By Frank Hill

Why has the contraception edict by the Obama White House caused so much trouble?

It drives Catholics and other church-goers bonkers.

For good reason.  It goes against the very essence of who we are as Americans as you will soon see...

The Catholics were understandably upset over the forced mandate of contraceptives being included on any health care plan offered by the Catholic Church to any of its millions of people across the nation or group plans offered through any of its entities.  That goes against their religious belief that contraceptives are not acceptable to use as for family-planning purposes.

But Protestant religious groups across the nation were irate as well, even though their denominations accept the use of contraceptives for family-planning.

What gives?  What was at the heart of this enervated opposition to President Obama's health care policy?

We think this edict bore right through the mantle of the often-shallow American political game and went right through to the magma of what it means to be an American.  It is worth examining just so everyone understands where it came from.

What people with religious faith vehemently disagree with is the heavy-handed intrusion of the power of the federal government into matters of their faith.  If there is anything that is a core American principle, it is the protection of everyone's right to believe, or not believe for that matter, in any particular religion.

It is a clearly enunciated right in the US Constitution. The Constitution speaks of religion in two phrases: The first is the freedom of religion clause in the First Amendment:  'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;'.

The second is Article VI:  '...but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.'  Go tell that to Mitt Romney.



And that, ladies and gentlemen, is about it for the Constitutional language on religion and religious freedom.


There are 3 other 'foundational' documents, however, that you need to be aware of and understand whenever it comes to religious freedom issues in America, even though they are not in the US Constitution.  


The Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom, penned by Thomas Jefferson in 1779.
The Danbury Baptists Letter to President Thomas Jefferson in October, 1801.
President Thomas Jefferson's Response to the Danbury Baptists on January 1, 1802.


Click on the links above and take a look at these important American documents.  It is simply impossible to come away with any other conclusion than the fact that Thomas Jefferson, speaking on the behalf of many of the Revolutionaries and Patriots of the day, wanted to make painfully clear that one of the prime motivations for fighting the War for Independence and establishing the new Republic was to guarantee the free exercise of religion without ANY interference or hindrance or mandate from the federal government. Whatsoever. Ever.


Jefferson's language in the Virginia Statute is rife with 'liberty' and 'freedom' words and themes written in only a way that he seemed able to and catch the spirit of the human need to be able to worship freely without any interference from anyone or any state-sponsored government.


The point to keep in mind as you read these documents is that paramount in their minds was the experience of the state-sponsored Anglican Church of England as well as the state-sponsored Anglican Church of Virginia in colonial and post-revolutionary war days.


Did you know that you could not hold office in the Commonwealth of Virginia unless you were a solid Anglican or Episcopalian in good standing? Not only that, taxes were collected from the taxpayers of the Commonwealth of Virginia to support, you guessed it, The Anglican Church of Virginia!  The word 'antidisestablishmentarianism' comes from the political battles in England and Virginia over the 'disestablishment' of the Church 'from' the state.


Can you imagine that?  Collecting taxes today to support any church in your state, be it Catholic, Methodist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Mormon, Jewish, Muslim or Rastafarian?


Jefferson and his founding brothers rejected that notion for the new Republic in 1789.  His response to the Danbury Baptists was written to assure them that he had no interest or desire as President to do anything that would be construed or mis-construed as recognizing or establishing any particular religion as the 'state-sponsored' religion of the new federal government.


The Danbury Baptists were aggrieved just like the Virginia Baptists or Methodists must have been in the sense that they were not allowed to hold public office and participate fully in the new republic's business.


Jefferson's letter back to them sought to assure them of his independence in this issue and he included this phrase: '...thus building a wall of separation between Church & State' to emphasize his understanding that the state should not impose a state-sponsored religion on anyone anywhere in this nation.


That phrase has been noodled, dissected, mis-represented and mis-handled ever since then by parties on all sides of various issues, depending on whether it suited their political purposes or not.


This is the landmine that the Obama Administration stepped on which has blown up in their face.  It flies in the face of the American experience that any President or Congress can tell any religious group what to do and that includes whether the Catholic Church has to offer coverage for contraceptives or not in their offering of insurance plans.

Reading some of the foundational documents might actually be helpful to everyone involved, wouldn't you agree?
(Editor's Note: Frank Hill's resumé includes working as chief of staff for Senator Elizabeth Dole and Congressman Alex McMillan, serving on the House Budget Committee and serving on the Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform. He takes on politics from a fiercely independent perspective at the blog Telemachus).

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26 comments:

  1. Excellent article. The issue is as you point out one of separation of Church and State. That and there exists no right for the federal government to mandate issues of health. Reproductive or otherwise.

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  2. .

    We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. - Constitution Of USA.

    "... there exists no right for the federal government to mandate issues of health. Reproductive or otherwise."

    The Constitution does NOT prohibit the federal government from acting to promote the general welfare. 'We the people' decided health care was an important societal function of the general welfare and established the Affordable Care Act. Our government has the authority to make rules and regulations to implement a system that meets the mandates of the law.

    "What gives? What was at the heart of this enervated opposition to President Obama's health care policy?"

    Can you say, "Desperate failed political operatives (Murdoch Media/Fox) trying to create faux outrage for political expediency?" The secular government has always established the rules for USA. (As you brought up Mr Romney... One can then ask how many wives could a man have before statehood for Utah: and after statehood for Utah?) Oops; the heavy-handed intrusion of the power of the federal government into matters of their faith (chuckle chuckle chuckle.)

    Really? Do you honestly think the RepublicanT Party cares? Do you really think this has any significance?

    Do you ever get tired of being played for chumps by Fox?


    Ema Nymton
    ~@:o?
    .

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    1. We the people just voted those jerks out of the House for their overreaching. We are about to fix the senate and the White House too.

      Whenever you get too fond of what government can give you, always remember government can take it away. And you will be wailing like a stuck pig when your precious goodies are taken from you.

      Government does not give us our rights, and thus they cannot be taken away.

      Delete
  3. Emma, Emma, Emma, do you really think you have a lock on understanding. Do you really believe all the stuff from the democratic party is gospel? Do you actually believe either party, or the two faces of the media are telling the comple truth?

    Some put their faith in the state, which is the people. A collective of many different views, ideologies, and culture backgrounds. Naturally a lot of posturing, politics, and even evasion of the truth occurs.

    So, in keeping the federal government as small as practicable actually insures the maximum amount of individual liberties. And Emma, that is what we all should be able to agree on.

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  4. Oh, another thing,.. Do YOU ever get tired of being played as chumps by MSNBC?

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  5. More mischief has been promulgated on the American people by the misuse and mal-use of the "general welfare" clause than any other single concept in US history.

    Pray tell Ms. Emma, can you cite anything that cannot be justified using that absurd standard?

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  6. .

    "... can you cite anything that cannot be justified using that absurd standard?"

    Absurd standard? Not readin' your love there. What do you mean by absurd?

    The Constitution is the law of the land. It places limits on the power of the government. As long as the Constitution does not prohibit the government from acting, the people's government has the requirement to act and implement the will of the people.

    The people have spoken.

    Ema Nymton
    ~@:o?
    .

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  7. "As long as the Constitution does not prohibit the government from acting,"

    Actually, it seems that a fundamental misunderstanding has occurred. It's merely the latest.
    You have it precisely backwards, the powers ceded to the federal government by the constitution are few and enumerated. In other words, they can't do anything unless it is specifically allowed.

    Now that we have done some remedial education, let's move back to the question which was dodged. Can you cite anything that cannot be justified using that absurd revisionist standard?

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  8. .

    "In other words, they can't do anything unless it is specifically allowed."

    Really? May be one has to actually show where this is in the Constitution.

    Ema Nymton
    ~@:o?
    .

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    1. Try reading Article 1 of the Constitution. Look carefully for the words "herein granted." Then loom at section 8 for the specific powers granted therein.

      Then read the 10th Amendment that says that powers not delegated to Congress are retained by the states and the people.

      Then read the 9th Amendment which expands the meaning of the previous eight amendments to include rights of the people not specifically enumerated.

      Whereas the powers of Congress are limited exclusively to powers specifically granted, the rights of people are not limited only to those which were specifically enumerated, and the unenumerated rights are no less important.

      You're not merely annoying, Emma, you're DANGEROUS to liberty and to our nation. Thank God and our Founders that your idiotic and diabolical speech is protected.

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    2. .

      "Whereas the powers of Congress are limited exclusively to powers specifically granted, ..."

      Section 8

      ‘The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States ...

      To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, ...

      To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, ...
      - USA Constitution

      Governments in USA do have the authority to act unless specifically forbidden by the Constitution. The people's governments in USA are carrying out the will of the people. You may find it annoying, the people have spoken. As for being idiotic and diabolical; as Forrest Gump said, 'Idiotic/diabolic is as idiotic/diabolic does.'

      Ema Nymton
      ~@:o?
      .

      Delete
  9. Is there ever a time when the state should step in ?

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  10. Try reading it. Educate yourself. And then please answer the question that keeps being avoided.

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  11. BB, there are many times when the government should step in. The government exists to defend the rights of the people. The DOI explains this quite plainly.

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  12. BB, the constitution enumerates quite plainly when the federal government steps in. The article addresses federal policy, that is the topic. Federal involvement in health care is not one of the times allowed.

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  13. .

    "Federal involvement in health care is not one of the times allowed."

    By whom? The people have spoken. Health care is well within the realm of the people's government involvement, protection and policy.

    Ema Nymton
    ~@:o?
    .

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  14. You can repeat an incorrect assertion a million times, but it will never become correct because of it.

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  15. .

    "You can repeat an incorrect assertion a million times, but it will never become correct because of it."

    So you admit you are wrong in your singular misreading of USA's Constitution. Had Thomas Jefferson listened to your bass-ackward approach to governing the Louisiana Purchase would not have expanded the USA in the early 1800's.

    Ema Nymton
    ~@:o?
    .

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  16. Of course I don't concede anything. Such a childish debate tactic.

    The problem is that the constitution has been violated so many times, by so many Presidents and congresses that uneducated folks assume it means whatever they want it to mean for whatever suits their purposes.

    Now, shall we assume you concede that you cannot answer the question you have dodged all along, namely, is there anything that cannot be done in the absurd interpretation of the general welfare clause?

    Turn around is so tacky isn't it?

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  17. .

    "... absurd interpretation ..."

    Yes of course. The Constitution was signed in September 1787. The weapons available at the time were black powder muzzle loaders. So 2d amendment applies only to weapons available at that time.

    Absurd interpretation: the Air Force is not mentioned in US Constitution thus the USAF is unconstitutional.

    The General Welfare clause is not subject to your absurd interpretation.

    Ema nymton
    ~@:o?
    .

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  18. The question isn't if you are being obtuse, the question is; is it purposeful?

    I would explain all these things to a child, it's very elementary, but I suspect you have reached an older chronological age, so my time is worth more than that.

    I'm certain you have convinced yourself that you have made cogent points and a winning argument, but I'm confident you are alone, or nearly so.

    Rave on. I'm officially bored on this thread.

    PS, keep working on that first question, I'm sure it has you stumped.

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  19. Let us not forget my dear Emma the constitution insure that the tyranny of the majority does not negate nor render invalid the natural rights of the minority. So... get an education please.

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  20. Emma, we will say this for the last bleeping time.

    The preamble is a PREAMBLE. It is not law. It grants no powers. It is not a blank check for government to do whatever it thinks satisfies the principles therein.

    The preamble is an INTRODUCTION. It explains what the subsequent articles accomplish.

    The constitution has checks and balances, separation of powers, specified powers, and a Bill of Rights that specifically limits federal powers. Nowhere in the Constitution was Congress empowered to provide health care, pay for health care, or mandate insurance. Period.

    Now, to the rest of you who will listen, there is a link on Greg Mankiw's blog to an excellent WSJ article. While religious freedom is one reason to oppose Zero on this issue, John Cochrane makes a solid point about what "insurance" is and what it is not. Insurance transfers risk for a price. It covers you for what MIGHT HAPPEN. It does not create an obligation to pay for predictable and regular expenses, e.g. birth control.

    The Demon Rats drag the red herring of the poor. This isn't about the poor who don't usually have employer provided health insurance. Anyone who has a job with health insurance can afford to pay the minimal, predictable, and regular expense of birth control just like they pay for soap, toothpaste, and gym memberships. Even unpredictable and irregular expenses like band aids, alcohol, antibacterials, analgesics, cough syrup, are not paid for by insurance.

    Moral and religious issues aside, government has no business telling any employer or any insurance company what it must or must not cover. If an employer negotiates for or against certain coverage, that's between them and the insurer. If the employee doesn't like it, they can find a different job or pay for it themselves.

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    1. .

      "Nowhere in the Constitution was Congress empowered to provide health care, pay for health care, or mandate insurance. Period."


      Section 8

      ‘The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States ...

      To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, ...

      To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, ...
      - USA Constitution

      Governments in USA do have the authority to act unless specifically forbidden by the Constitution. The people's governments in USA are carrying out the will of the people. It is the will of the people to have universal free public education and health care.

      "... government has no business telling any employer or any insurance company what it must or must not cover."

      Sure it does. Check out you automobile insurance, government clearly tells the insurance companies what they can and cannot cover. Happens all the time. How's your insurance premium doing?

      Ema Nymton
      ~@:o?
      .

      Delete
  21. There is an excellent argument to be made that the Air Force IS unconstitutional, especially since it controls the bulk of our nuclear forces.

    I'm not saying we should not have or should abolish the Air Force, but the trend of ignoring the Constitution while making laws is troublesome to say the least.

    Health care could be considered part of a state's police powers, but that is quite a stretch and not necessarily wise even if it is permissible. Health care is a private good, and private goods are most efficiently allocated by the private sector.

    An individual mandate is not a bad idea. Since we will not usually decline lifesaving care at hospitals regardless of ability to pay or possession of current insurance, the decision to not have it imposes costs on others. This is why we mandate auto insurance - not to protect a vehicle owner but anyone he might hit. Liability is required. Lenders require collision coverage to protect their collateral. Still, there is no specified power in the US Constitution to mandate that individuals purchase a good or service. We need an amendment for that.

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  22. Spot on Nick. Unfortunately, your points convince no one. Those who agree, already understood and agreed. Those who the points were aimed to convince have deaf ears.

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